Last week I suggested that a home remedy was exactly what the Lions were in need of. With a three-game home stand on the horizon, this would be the perfect opportunity for Orlando City to piece itself back together and start to find the rhythm it had at the start of the season. Since that article was published, the team is now two games in and has earned four points with a win against D.C. United and a 0-0 draw against the Chicago Fire.
I felt the toughest match of the home stand may be the game against the Fire, and by all accounts it was. With two red cards handed out to Lions players, the team truly had to grind out a hard-earned point as it stacked eight people in the box and fought a way to a draw. Now, while the home games are paying dividends as the team is earning points, the question has become: is the team’s defense earning its identity back?
A shutout in any game is a thing of beauty when earning points, but typically shutouts don’t come too easy, especially playing against efficient offenses such as the Chicago Fire, who currently have the top goal scorer in the league, Nemanja Nikolic. The tough, grind-out games are not always easy to watch, but what came out of the Chicago Fire draw is something the Lions were in desperate search of — identity.
Will Johnson spoke on the team finding its identity after the match, saying, "We lost ourselves there for a little bit...We are happy with getting back to who we are and establishing an identity, and now going into the break, we've got to now find a way for when we have 11 guys on the field to score some goals."
The defense is climbing back into a world of dominance after a number of bad results on the road and at home. The team gave up 13 goals over a six-game span, and in the same time frame the team only managed to score four times. To say that an identity was lost is putting it lightly. Comparing those numbers to the first six games of the season is even scarier. The Lions only gave up four goals in that six-game stint and scored eight. The team’s bad slump hurt them significantly enough to drop them from first place and down to where they currently sit, fourth.
"We're getting there; we're getting back to who we were,” said Johnson. “We lost our identity, if you will, for a little bit there. We started trying to get a little clever, and now we are back to who we are. The shutouts feel good.”
The defense may be rediscovering its form but one aspect of the team that has been in question most of the season is the offense, which the Lions have yet to pick up. Now to add to that, the offense typically only has to earn a goal or two in a game and that is usually enough for three points earned. The defense is that good! But when the defense is not at its best, the offense usually struggles and that has proven to be double the trouble for the Lions this season.
Moving forward, the team does get some rest during the international break. This should be good news for the team, as rest will be a great remedy for the entire roster after a May that was jam-packed with games and bad results. The defense has already been ignited to rediscovering its identity, so with rest, hopefully the offense can do the same.